Statistics don't have to be dull - gurus of visual analytics can make them a pleasure to comprehend.
In an uncharted world of boundless data, information designers are our new navigators.
New York Times, By NATASHA SINGER, April 2, 2011
They are computer scientists, statisticians, graphic designers, producers and cartographers who map entire oceans of data and turn them into innovative visual displays, like rich graphs and charts, that help both companies and consumers cut through the clutter. These gurus of visual analytics are making interactive data synonymous with attractive data.
"Statistics," says Dr. Hans Rosling, a professor of international health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, "is now the sexiest subject around."
Dr. Rosling is a founder of
, a nonprofit group based in Stockholm that works to educate the public about disparities in health and wealth around the world - by offering animated interactive statistics online that help visitors spot trends on their own.
In a Stamen graphic of Twitter traffic during an MTV awards show, the number of tweets about celebrities was reflected in the size of their photos.
Visual analytics play off the idea that the brain is more attracted to and able to process dynamic images than long lists of numbers. But the goal of information visualization is not simply to represent millions of bits of data as illustrations. It is to prompt visceral comprehension, moments of insight that make viewers want to learn more.
"The purpose of visualization," says
Ben Shneiderman, founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, "is insight, not pictures."